trump-china-magazine

Media finally sees Trump’s “Asia Pivot”

Here I am on my post-election gloating tour, with another prediction that’s finally been picked up on by the media.  In July, I asked “Is Trump the ‘Asia pivot’ candidate?“, and showed how his candidacy may be the culmination of this major shift in US geopolitics.  Well, here’s a sampling of the Google News results on this issue, now that Trump has been elected.

trump-asia-pivot-news

Looks like there’s something to this.  He may ease tensions with Russia, while at the same time putting us on a war path with China.  Dangerous times!

gary_johnson_libertarian

Gary Johnson’s collapse helped Trump win

Back in August, I concluded my last post with the following prediction:

However, as the clock ticks towards the election, it is likely that the race will be forced into a Trump-Hillary binary, diminishing the third parties, and giving Trump a much-needed small boost.

Sure enough, this is exactly what happened.  Gary Johnson’s collapse helped push Trump over the top in a highly competitive race, as you can see from the RealClearPolitics chart below.

election-2016-gary-johnson-effect

In the end, third parties may not affect the narrative of the election much, but they do have an effect on who is perceived to be winning or losing, especially in a tight race.  This has an outsized effect on the race, compared to the raw vote totals, and should be further studied and exploited by future campaigns.

2016 presidential election 4-way: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein

Gary Johnson helping Hillary win

How is Gary Johnson affecting the 2016 presidential race?  Is he helping Hillary or Trump?  How does Jill Stein factor into it?  For an in-depth analysis, I looked at 4-way presidential polls going back to May 2016, aggregated by RealClearPolitics (CSV data download).  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Gary Johnson seems to hurt Trump more than Hillary — but Jill Stein turns out to have a very surprising role!

Let’s look at how the combo of Johnson and Stein affect the race.  Here we see a positive correlation between their combined share of the vote and Clinton’s numbers.  This means Johnson and Stein take votes from Trump, on average.  But how does Johnson affect things individually?

johnson_stein_vs_clinton

Each dot is one 4-way poll, taken sometime between May 2016 to August 2016.  The “Clinton spread” is shorthand for Hillary’s lead over Trump.

Johnson helps Hillary only very slightly by himself, in the graph below.  Yet in the next graph, Johnson helps the leftist bloc of Hillary and Stein much more than he helps Hillary alone.  What is going on here??

johnson_vs_clinton johnson_vs_clinton_stein

To make things even weirder, Stein seems to help Hillary even more than Johnson does.  That implies Stein is taking more votes from Trump than Gary Johnson does!  How can that be??

stein_vs_clinton

Finally, a moment of clarity.  There is a solid, almost 2:1 correlation between Gary Johnson and Jill Stein’s poll numbers.  That means they magnify each other, instead of subtracting.  Probably because whenever the media gives Gary any attention, they also mention Jill Stein, so she gets a boost.  There is a strong “third party bloc” dynamic here, more so than the individual third party candidates.  Ideology seems to have little effect compared to simple media exposure.

stein_vs_johnson

The best explanation I can think of is that there is a contingent of potential Trump voters, who evenly split between Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.  That would account for why Johnson has a smaller effect on Hillary’s lead than does Stein.  The rest of Johnson’s supporters would otherwise evenly split on Trump and Hillary.

In the end, Jill Stein acts as a magnifier for Johnson’s effect on the race.  Trump would definitely be better off if they both left the race, but his biggest marginal gain would be Jill Stein dropping out.

Prediction: A 2-way debate in late September will shift the focus back to Trump vs. Hillary and diminish the attention on Gary Johnson (and Stein).  This should be a net positive for Trump, the debate results notwithstanding.  A 3-way, or even worse, a 4-way debate, would potentially be devastating for Trump, as it would give a national platform for the third party bloc which is on net drawing votes from Trump.  However, as the clock ticks towards the election, it is likely that the race will be forced into a Trump-Hillary binary, diminishing the third parties, and giving Trump a much-needed small boost.

Trump vs China

Is Trump the “Asia pivot” candidate?

Looking at the difference between Trump’s and Hillary’s attitudes towards Russia, one can’t help but feel that there’s something deeper going on.  Hillary’s hostility to Russia, contrasted with Trump’s amiable gestures, raises the question of what Trump’s objectives are.  Or more accurately, those of the team of national security insiders he has assembled, including former Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn.

Let’s get this out of the way: it is not non-interventionism, no matter what some libertarians may wish to believe about Trump.  These are serious military-industrial complex heavy-hitters in his inner circle.  He is not against using American power, he is simply pushing a different agenda from the neocons formerly in power.  His well-known antipathy to China may provide a clue.  Here’s Trump’s plan to “get tough” on China (there is no “get tough” on Russia plan):

Declare China A Currency Manipulator
End China’s Intellectual Property Violations
Eliminate China’s Illegal Export Subsidies And Other Unfair Advantages
Strengthen the U.S. military and deploying it appropriately in the East and South China Seas

Donald Trump campaign website, July 30, 2016

Increased trade barriers, sparking a possible trade war, combined with amped up military presence in China’s backyard sends a pretty clear signal of Trump’s intentions.  This falls in line with the elite foreign policy consensus of an “Asia pivot” in the past few years – away from the Middle East and towards containing a rising China.  Let Russia help us mop up ISIS and “radical Islam”, Trump seems to argue, which leaves us free to confront China.

At a press conference a few days ago, Trump said he doesn’t want to see Russia and China “teaming up”.  He seems to understand, or has been made to understand, the fears underlying thia Asia pivot.  Closer military and economic cooperation between Russia and China presents a major stumbling block to Western globalist hegemony.  The election contest between Trump and Hillary can be seen as a contest between the foreign policy realist “pivot” faction and the anti-Russia neocons.  Far from ushering in an era of non-interventionism, Trump would merely shift the target of American power.

Global left-right politics

The globalization of politics

Something is different in politics recently.  No, not Trump.  I mean the global nature of previously domestic politics.  In the past, there was a superficial awareness of geopolitics and foreign leaders.  But now we have the same emotional, visceral response to other countries’ politicians, that used to be reserved for one’s own.  Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, Merkel, Wilders, Orban, Erdogan — have supporters and detractors across the world.  There even seem to be the rough outlines of political alignment across boundaries, such as Nigel Farage stumping for Trump.

Social media has certainly contributed to this globalization of discourse.  But there is a narrative structure to recent events.  A disaffected, right-wing, populist, global “revolution” against the “establishment” is a unifying thread.  Both sides of the political spectrum are engaging in cross-border alignments.  Is there a deliberate unite-and-rule tactic happening, to drive us into yet another false, left-right paradigm?  This time, it is pushing our consciousness to operate on the global level, rather than the national.

We are to believe that there is suddenly a groundswell of opposition to global governance, simultaneously, worldwide.  This opposition is momentarily winning, but it is painted in the darkest terms, as something that must be defeated.  Perhaps it is just one phase of the dialectic, to get us psychologically prepared for global governance.

Just as with national politics, there is a danger in engaging this new global politics.  It is putting our faith, hope, time and energy into these pantheonic figures, completely removed from our lives, which might as well be cartoon characters on a screen.  We ignore the local, the immediate, the personal.  We should not buy into these false alignments and alliances, as if they are our saviors — a grand revolution around the world.

The real revolution is at home.

Trump vs China

Is Trump the “Asia pivot” candidate?

Looking at the difference between Trump’s and Hillary’s attitudes towards Russia, one can’t help but feel that there’s something deeper going on.  Hillary’s hostility to Russia, contrasted with Trump’s amiable gestures, raises the question of what Trump’s objectives are.  Or more accurately, those of the team of national security insiders he has assembled, including former Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn.

Let’s get this out of the way: it is not non-interventionism, no matter what some libertarians may wish to believe about Trump.  These are serious military-industrial complex heavy-hitters in his inner circle.  He is not against using American power, he is simply pushing a different agenda from the neocons formerly in power.  His well-known antipathy to China may provide a clue.  Here’s Trump’s plan to “get tough” on China (there is no “get tough” on Russia plan):

Declare China A Currency Manipulator
End China’s Intellectual Property Violations
Eliminate China’s Illegal Export Subsidies And Other Unfair Advantages
Strengthen the U.S. military and deploying it appropriately in the East and South China Seas

Donald Trump campaign website, July 30, 2016

Increased trade barriers, sparking a possible trade war, combined with amped up military presence in China’s backyard sends a pretty clear signal of Trump’s intentions.  This falls in line with the elite foreign policy consensus of an “Asia pivot” in the past few years – away from the Middle East and towards containing a rising China.  Let Russia help us mop up ISIS and “radical Islam”, Trump seems to argue, which leaves us free to confront China.

At a press conference a few days ago, Trump said he doesn’t want to see Russia and China “teaming up”.  He seems to understand, or has been made to understand, the fears underlying thia Asia pivot.  Closer military and economic cooperation between Russia and China presents a major stumbling block to Western globalist hegemony.  The election contest between Trump and Hillary can be seen as a contest between the foreign policy realist “pivot” faction and the anti-Russia neocons.  Far from ushering in an era of non-interventionism, Trump would merely shift the target of American power.

Donald Trump and Edward Snowden

Will President Trump get Edward Snowden?

Since Trump and Putin seem to like each other, is it likely that a President Trump’s newly-befriended Russia would throw Edward Snowden under the extradition bus?

Let’s see what Trump has said about Snowden.

I think Snowden is a terrible threat, I think he’s a terrible traitor, and you know what we used to do in the good old days when we were a strong country — you know what we used to do to traitors, right?
The Washington Times, July 2, 2013

When you just asked the question about Snowden, I will tell you right from the beginning, I said he was a spy and we should get him back.  And if Russia respected our country, they would have sent him back immediately, but he was a spy. It didn’t take me a long time to figure that one out.
Newsweek, March 4, 2016

Here’s what Putin has said about Trump.

[Donald Trump is] a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt.  It’s not our job to judge his qualities, that’s a job for American voters, but he’s the absolute leader in the presidential race. … He says he wants to move on to a new, more substantial relationship, a deeper relationship with Russia, how can we not welcome that?  Of course we welcome that.
The Political Insider, December 17, 2015

And what Trump said of Putin.

It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.  I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.
CNN, December 17, 2015

With warmed relations, Snowden may quickly lose his value as a geopolitical “trump” card and find himself on a one-way flight to Guantanamo.  Maybe he should start country shopping?

Caucasus and Central Asia Map

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Central Asia

The US foreign policy establishment is shifting focus to Central Asia as the key pivot point in “The Great Game” for natural resources.  The increasing Islamization of the region and its attendant conflicts are part of an intentional “strategy of tension” meant to subvert, destabilize, and ultimately pacify the region for Western economic exploitation.  This is the thesis put forth by Sibel Edmonds and her partners at Boiling Frogs Post, in her series on Gladio B, her nickname for this US-led operation.

To further illuminate this topic, it would be interesting to look at the financial goings-on of this region in more detail.  I’ve drawn data from the World Bank regarding foreign direct investment (FDI) in this region for the past 20 years.  There is an obvious trend of increasing investment, with a hiccup after the 2008 global economic crisis:

FDI in Central Asia

FDI in Central Asia

Download Chart Data (CSV), Source: WorldBank.org

This is a good starting point for asking further questions.  What is the breakdown between US, Chinese, and Russian investments?  What proven and speculated resource deposits lie in this region and what is their estimated value?  What projects are being supported by these investments and how do they impact the economic power of those involved?

Tackling these questions in detail will be a useful analytical tool in understanding “The Great Game”.

Hamster wheel

10 reasons why politics is a waste of time

  1. You don’t drain the swamp — the swamp drains you.  The system swallows everyone whole, even someone as audacious as Trump.
  2. To get elected, you need support.  To get support you need to make promises, which often will include statist actions.
  3. You need funding.   People only donate big money if they will see a financial benefit, which usually involves a government privilege.
  4. Even small money makes you more susceptible to pressure, because it’s harder to say “no” to someone who has given you money, even if they want a statist policy.
  5. You have to get along with people: candidates, bureaucrats, civil organizations, unions, the media, voters, etc.  That means not rocking the boat.  Avoiding hard truths.  Not being unpleasant.  It’s hard to get the truth out this way. It’s like trying to put out a burning building with your hands tied behind your back.
  6. Every small compromise leads to a bigger compromise, and so on, until you are fully coopted into the system.  If you accept the premise that a little bit of statist action is okay as long as your end goal is the removal of a bigger statist action, you will never be able to see that you are being coopted.  In your mind, you are fighting the good fight, but in reality you are merely doing the work of the state, with a fun, but hypocritical, marketing plan.
  7. Look at the opportunity cost of doing politics.  How effective is electoral politics, versus media or business?  Lots of energy spent for meager results.
  8. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.  Politics is dirty and savage.  The people in it are assholes.  If you get into the game, you have to play hard to win.  That means eventually you have to become as nasty and back-stabbing as your competitors.  How can you avoid it?  By buttering everyone’s bread and going along to get along, i.e. statism.
  9. Winning is losing.  If you win office, you take a salary funded by taxpayers.  That is inherently unethical.  If you forego the salary, you have to make it up otherwise.  If someone funds you, then you are beholden to them, which usually means statism.  If you are independently wealthy, then politics is an awful waste of your time.  You’d be better off buying professional politicians, than being one yourself.  Focus on making more money and funding media and tech ventures to benefit the liberty movement.
  10. Why hasn’t electoral politics tended to increased liberty, but only increased statism?  What fundamental change will happen to reverse this trend?  Politics is structured to produce an increase in state power.  The simple act of being “in power” demands that one exercise power.  If one’s only agenda is to refrain from using power, one will not have it for very long, as someone else will take it.  Seeking power to restrain power is a performative contradiction.
Global left-right politics

The globalization of politics

Something is different in politics recently.  No, not Trump.  I mean the global nature of previously domestic politics.  In the past, there was a superficial awareness of geopolitics and foreign leaders.  But now we have the same emotional, visceral response to other countries’ politicians, that used to be reserved for one’s own.  Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, Merkel, Wilders, Orban, Erdogan — have supporters and detractors across the world.  There even seem to be the rough outlines of political alignment across boundaries, such as Nigel Farage stumping for Trump.

Social media has certainly contributed to this globalization of discourse.  But there is a narrative structure to recent events.  A disaffected, right-wing, populist, global “revolution” against the “establishment” is a unifying thread.  Both sides of the political spectrum are engaging in cross-border alignments.  Is there a deliberate unite-and-rule tactic happening, to drive us into yet another false, left-right paradigm?  This time, it is pushing our consciousness to operate on the global level, rather than the national.

We are to believe that there is suddenly a groundswell of opposition to global governance, simultaneously, worldwide.  This opposition is momentarily winning, but it is painted in the darkest terms, as something that must be defeated.  Perhaps it is just one phase of the dialectic, to get us psychologically prepared for global governance.

Just as with national politics, there is a danger in engaging this new global politics.  It is putting our faith, hope, time and energy into these pantheonic figures, completely removed from our lives, which might as well be cartoon characters on a screen.  We ignore the local, the immediate, the personal.  We should not buy into these false alignments and alliances, as if they are our saviors — a grand revolution around the world.

The real revolution is at home.

Auto scrapyard: cars crushed

Twitterspeak: the shrinkage of language

Twitter is altering language, not just on Twitter, but across all media.  Everything is being compactified; short attention spans demand it.  Among the benefits are brevity, efficiency, and impact.  The downside is the destruction of nuance and precision.  Dropped indefinite articles, sentence fragments, and an explosion of abbreviations and acronyms.  The danger is a form of Newspeak, in which a decrease in expressiveness of language yields a constricting of thought itself.

Will our capacity for conceptualization be limited to the lowest common denominator or will this punchy format lead to communicating new ideas that otherwise would have collected dust in long-form academic essays?

three pirates fighting

Trump split libertarians

The Trump phenomenon has splintered the libertarian movement into three distinct groups.  The massive political realignment taking place has exposed fractures that have existed for a long time.  How will these factions reconcile and will they constitute a unified movement in the future?

Left-libertarians – Typically DC beltway libertarians and wannabe respectable types.  The biggest of the three groups, they are best represented by Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson.  They value left social issues and are animated by anti-racism, gay marriage, and baking of cakes.  They also think Trump is racist and hates women.  Any good that may come from Trump’s challenge of the establishment is overshadowed by his being Pure Evil.

Paleo-conservatives – People like Lew Rockwell and Jeff Deist.  They value nationalism and traditional right views on culture, immigrants, and political correctness.  There is a silver lining to every one of Trump’s totalitarian or economically destructive proposals.

Voluntarists – The smallest faction, with people like Robert Wenzel and James Corbett.  They see Trump as not much different from Hillary or any of the other candidates, and a potential disaster for the country and the libertarian brand.    They tend to point out both the good aspects and terrible aspects of Trump’s proposals.